Michigan Medicine has updated its COVID-19 vaccination policy, no longer requiring the vaccine or an approved exemption as a condition of employment.
The policy revision, effective Aug. 21, was announced in an email to Michigan Medicine employees. It said Michigan Medicine continues to strongly encourage vaccination, as vaccines “have been demonstrated to reduce the spread of COVID and significantly lessen the likelihood of severe illness, hospitalization, and death.”
The change aligns with the policies at other health systems and comes in advance of the upcoming release of an updated COVID-19 vaccine — expected in September or October — that more closely targets recently circulating strains.
Other campus units, including University Health Service and the School of Dentistry, are revising their vaccination policies to match that of Michigan Medicine and will no longer require the COVID-19 vaccination or an approved exemption.
New COVID-19 variant detected, monitoring continues
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is closely tracking the new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86, which has been detected in just a handful of cases worldwide and has a high number of mutations.
One of those cases is in Washtenaw County and was detected by a University of Michigan lab as part of routine sequencing to identify new variants. A statement from leadership at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services noted the patient was not hospitalized and is an older adult who experienced mild symptoms.
Because of the small number of cases, MDHHS said, “It is not known yet what risks, if any, this may pose to the public’s health beyond what has been seen with other currently circulating lineages.”
University officials continue to collaborate with MDHHS, the Washtenaw County Health Department and the CDC to monitor activity of both recurring and emerging COVID-19 variants.
“As campus repopulates, we can expect a rise in cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses,” said Robert Ernst, chief health officer, executive director of UHS, and associate vice president for health and wellness in Student Life. “However, thanks to our continued monitoring systems, high levels of community immunity, and public health infrastructure, we are in a strong position to respond to those cases.”
The university’s data dashboard will continue to display wastewater surveillance data and other metrics. Plans to expand the dashboard beyond COVID-19 monitoring also are underway.
Fall flu vaccination clinics beginning
In preparation for the onset of flu season, UHS and MHealthy are sponsoring flu vaccine clinics across the Ann Arbor campus starting in mid-September and running throughout the fall term.
“Getting the flu vaccine is one of the most important ways to protect yourself against influenza, which in turn protects our greater community,” Ernst said.
The clinics, which are walk-in only, are run by Michigan Medicine’s Flu/Immunization Program. There is no out-of-pocket fee for university employees and spouses or other qualified adults who present their U-M health insurance card. The cost of the flu shot will be charged directly to their health plan.
Those not covered under an accepted plan can still receive a flu shot for $44 per person, which can be paid by check or credit card. Attendees should bring their insurance cards and wear appropriate clothing to receive the vaccine in their upper arm.
Employees who are not able to attend the walk-in clinics can learn about additional options on the Health Response website. Michigan Medicine employees can obtain a vaccine at Occupational Health Services clinics. As in recent years, Michigan Medicine employees are required to be in compliance with the Michigan Medicine Mandatory Influenza Vaccination Policy.
The flu vaccine clinics also will offer the updated COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible following U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC approval and recommendation.